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io8                            THE GAY GENIUS

greatest importance that these critics should be given complete
freedom and great responsibility, not merely as a matter of form,
but for the very definite purpose of checking the rise of selfish men
to power and of safeguarding against the danger always inherent in
a strongly centralised government. Before a bad minister comes into
power, it is a comparatively easy thing for the censors to stop him^
but after he is entrenched in his position, it may take an army to over-
throw him, and then it may not always succeed. ... I hope Your
Majesty will ponder deeply the purpose and meaning of this institu-
tion of government critics, and keep it alive for the protection of
Your Imperial Descendants. There is in my mind nothing more
important for maintaining the proper functioning of the govern-
ment than this institution."

Su Tungpo warned the Emperor against reliance upon his power to
cow the people into submission. Again he referred to the growing
rumour of restoration of punishment by bodily mutilation. Hundreds
of years earlier, various forms of mutilation had been used in the punish-
ment of criminals, including branding, cutting off noses, cutting oS
legs, and castration. These inhuman punishments were abolished after
the second century B.C., except castration, which was abolished around
the year 600 AJD. It is to the credit of Su Tungpo that he prevented the
restoration of such cruelties by these two letters. The gossip was
increasing.

"Even Your Majesty and the few ministers close to you have hear<r
of these rumours. You have disregarded them by saying: Why should
I worry about these rumours when there is no basis to them?' While
it is true that such rumours may not all be correct yet they must have
sprung up for good reasons. A man must be greedy before he is
accused of being a thief, and a man must be loose in his morals before
he is accused of immorality with women. . . ."

Business had been paralysed, Su pointed out, and prices had gone up;
from the near-by provinces to distant Szechuen, rumours were rife and
the people were in an uproar; even deep in the mountainous districts a
wine monopoly had been established; monks and nuns had been
.arrested and deprived of their property, and soldiers' and officials' pay
had been cut.

"You have established the bureau of economic planning, which is
for the purpose of securing revenue. You have sent out over forty
tax commissioners, whose evident objective can only be to raise
money for the government. It^s useless for a man to ride out to the